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Gang Affiliation in Arizona: Is it illegal?

Arizona, especially Phoenix, has a history of gang activity. During the 80s and 90s the city and state leadership decided to get ‘tough on crime’ and they passed certain laws which target alleged gang members. Because of this, the state legislature wrote laws that made gang-affiliated crimes more punitively prosecuted. For this reason, a felony conviction will be given an enhanced sentence when gang allegations are made. An enhanced sentence is a sentence (the punishment for the crime) that has been increased as a result of statutory factors. Generally, the possibility of a suspended sentence, or any alternative, is much harder to obtain.

If you’re facing a criminal charge with a gang-related enhancement contact The Litwak Law Group today. Phoenix criminal defense attorney Jack Litwak works aggressively for his clients. Your freedom and future are at stake, don’t settle for a lawyer who won’t dedicate the time necessary to beat your charges. 

What is the legal definition of a gang in Arizona?

A criminal street gang in Arizona means an ongoing formal or informal association of persons whose members or associates individually or collectively engage in the commission, attempted commission, facilitation, or solicitation of any felony act and that has at least one individual who is a criminal street gang member.

The state can characterize someone as a “criminal street gang member” when they prove a person to have any two of the following seven criteria that indicate criminal street gang membership:

  • (a) Self-proclamation.
  • (b) Witness testimony or official statement.
  • (c) Written or electronic correspondence.
  • (d) Paraphernalia or photographs.
  • (e) Tattoos.
  • (f) Clothing or colors.
  • (g) Any other indicia of street gang membership.

According to ARS 13-2321, participating in a street gang is illegal and can be charged as a Class 2 Felony. Assisting a street gang on the other hand is also illegal but is only chargeable as a Class 3 Felony.

Participating in a street gang includes the following:

  • Intentionally organizing, managing, directing, supervising, or financing a gang to help its criminal objectives.
  • Knowingly inciting or making others engage in violence or intimidation to help the gang’s objectives.
  • Furnishing advice or direction in the conduct, financing, or management of a criminal street gang’s affairs with the intent to promote or further the criminal objectives of a criminal street gang.
  • Intentionally promoting or furthering the criminal objectives of a criminal street gang by inducing or committing any act or omission by a public servant in violation of the public servant’s official duty.

Assisting a street gang is a crime defined as ‘committing any felony offense, whether completed or preparatory for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with any criminal street gang.’

There is a law requiring sentencing enhancements (more prison time) for gang-related charges. A.R.S. 13-714 States that a person who is convicted of committing any felony offense with the intent to promote, further, or assist any criminal conduct by a criminal street gang shall not be eligible for suspension of sentence, probation, pardon or release from confinement on any basis except as authorized by section 31-233, subsection A or B until the sentence imposed by the court has been served, the person is eligible for release pursuant to section 41-1604.07 or the sentence is commuted. The presumptive, minimum and maximum sentence for the offense shall be increased by three years if the offense is a class 4, 5, or 6 felony, or shall be increased by five years if the offense is a class 2 or 3 felony. The additional sentence imposed pursuant to this section is in addition to any enhanced sentence that may be applicable.

What to do if you’re facing criminal charges

Typical crimes like assault, homicide, drive-by shooting, threatening and intimidating, conspiracy, criminal damage, aggravated assault, and robbery are often tied to gang-affiliated charges and enhancements. If you’re facing these charges then there are a few things to remember. First, you have numerous rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Never consent to a search of your person, house, or car, including lifting up articles of clothing to reveal tattoos. Never make statements to the police. Hiring an Arizona criminal defense lawyer is the best way to make sure you exercise your constitutionally guaranteed protections. Following these simple tips improves your chances at a fair process and having a beneficial outcome. Contact us today at 845.558.1448 or fill out the form here.